(Photo by Kathy Tran)

The original old-timers  

Charlie McGuinness’ diner is an anomaly.

The Lower Greenville establishment has thrived for 28 years in a neighborhood where the lifespan of a restaurant is often only a year. The décor, cajun dishes and even the busboy haven’t changed in decades.

But fewer people recognize the longtime seafood joint today. Its sudden name change from Original Dodie’s to Charlie’s Creole Kitchen left many regulars worried that it succumbed to closure.

“We’re still here. We’re still operating,” general manager Laura Kroemer says.

The restaurant’s identity crisis is the product of a legal dispute. McGuinness helped his son, Chris, open a second Dodie’s location a half-mile down the street. When Chris’ venture went bankrupt, he sold the trademarked name to Reef Entertainment. The new owners filed a lawsuit against the Original Dodie’s and won, forcing them to completely rebrand the eatery.

McGuinness is a bit “beat up” after the ordeal, he says.

“The restaurant business is a lot like marriage. When it’s good, it’s great. When it’s bad, it sucks,” he says.

McGuinness launched the eatery in 1989 after sampling the Cajun cuisine offered throughout Lower Greenville. The New Orleans native was searching for a taste of home, and nothing he tried compared to his grandmother’s recipes.

“Nobody knew anything about southern Louisiana cooking as far as I was concerned,” he says.

(Photo by Kathy Tran)

He poured his savings into the small space dedicated to classics like gumbo, jambalaya and po’ boys. It’s

the small tricks, like storing seafood on ice, which McGuinness learned in his hometown, that sets Charlie’s apart.

The loyalty of the staff and regulars have given him peace of mind as the Original Dodie’s name is removed from the menus, signs and website.

“I’m pretty proud of being here as long as I have,”  he says.

Did you know: A former SMU student painted the murals on Charlie’s Creole Kitchen’s walls in exchange for free beer and meals.

Charlie’s Creole Kitchen

Ambiance: Casual cajun diner
Price Range: $12-$20
Hours: 11a.m.-10 p.m. Monday-Saturday, 10 a.m.-9 p.m. Sunday
2129 Greenville Ave.